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Firefighters are stepping up to battle the deadly California fire near the Oregon border | Pro Club Bd

Firefighters got their hands on California’s deadliest and most destructive fire of the year for the first time and expected the blaze to stall throughout the weekend.

The McKinney Fire near the Oregon border was 10% contained as of Thursday morning, and bulldozers and hand crews were making progress carving firebreaks around much of the remainder of the fire, fire officials said at a community meeting.

The southeast corner of the fire above Yreka, the seat of Siskyou County, with a population of about 7,800, has been contained. Evacuation orders for parts of the city and Hawkinsville were downgraded to alerts, allowing people to return home but with a warning the situation remained dangerous.

About 1,300 residents remained under evacuation orders, officials said.

A chimney stands in a home destroyed by the McKinney Fire on Tuesday, August 2, 2022 in Klamath National Forest, California.

Noah Berger/AP

The fire didn’t progress much on Wednesday after several days of brief but heavy rain from thunderstorms that made for cloudy, wetter weather.

“This is a sleeping giant at the moment,” said Darryl Laws, a unit commander on fire.

Additionally, Thursday firefighters expected to completely surround a 1,000-acre spot fire on the northern edge of the McKinney Fire.

The fire broke out last Friday and has charred nearly 92 square miles of woodland left cinder dry by drought. More than 100 homes and other buildings burned down and four bodies were found, including two in a burned-out car in a driveway.

The fire was initially driven by strong winds in front of a thunderstorm cell. More storms earlier this week proved a mixed blessing. A soggy rain on Tuesday poured up to 3 inches on some eastern sections of the fire, but most of the fire area was all but cleared, said Dennis Burns, a fire behavior analyst.

The latest storm also raised concerns about possible river flooding and mudslides. A private contractor in a pickup truck helping fight the fire was injured when a bridge gave way and the vehicle washed away, Kreider said. The contractor had non-life-threatening injuries, she said.

However, no weather events that could give the fire “legs” have been forecast for the next three or four days, Burns said.

The good news came too late for many people in the quaint hamlet of Klamath River, which was home to about 200 people before the fire burned many of the homes, as well as the post office, community center and other buildings.

At an evacuation center, Bill Simms said Wednesday that three of the four victims were his neighbors. Two were a married couple who lived up the road.

“I don’t get emotional when it comes to stuff and material things,” Simms said. “But when you hear my neighbors have died… it gets a little emotional.”

Their names have not been officially confirmed, which could take several days, said Courtney Kreider, a spokeswoman for the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office.

Simms, a 65-year-old retiree, bought his property six years ago as a second home with access to hunting and fishing. He went back Tuesday to check on his property and found it destroyed.

“The house, the guest house and the mobile home were gone. It’s just wasteland, desolation,” Simms said. He found the body of one of his two cats, which he buried. The other cat is still missing. He was able to take his two dogs to the shelter.

Harlene Schwander, 82, lost the home she moved into a month ago to be closer to her son and daughter-in-law. Her house survived, but her house was set on fire.

Schwander, an artist, said she only managed to take a few family photos and some jewelry before the evacuation. Everything else – including her art collection – went up in flames.

“I’m sad. Everyone says it was just stuff, but it was all I had,” she said.

California and much of the rest of the West is suffering from drought and wildfire danger is high, with the worst fire season on record yet to come. Fires are raging in Montana, Idaho and Nebraska, destroying homes and threatening communities.

Scientists say climate change has made the West warmer and drier over the past three decades and will continue to make weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive. California has experienced its largest, most destructive, and deadliest wildfires in the past five years. In 2018, a massive fire in the Sierra Nevada foothills destroyed much of the town of Paradise and killed 85 people, the highest number of wildfire deaths in the United States in a century.

In northwest Montana, a fire that destroyed at least four homes and forced the evacuation of about 150 homes west of Flathead Lake was pushed further north by winds Wednesday, firefighters said.

Crews had to be pulled from the lines Wednesday afternoon due to increased fire activity, Sara Rouse, a public information officer, told NBC Montana.

There were concerns the fire could reach Lake Mary Ronan by Wednesday night, officials said.

The fire, which broke out in the grass on the Flathead Indian Reservation on July 29, quickly spread to wood, charring nearly 29 square miles.

The Idaho moose fire has burned more than 85 square miles in the Salmon-Challis National Forest while threatening homes, mining operations and fisheries near the town of Salmon.

And wildfire in northwestern Nebraska prompted evacuations and destroyed or damaged several homes near the small town of Gering. The Carter Canyon fire started Saturday as two separate fires that merged.

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Weber reported from Los Angeles. Associated Press reporter Amy Hanson in Helena, Montana; Margery Beck of Omaha, Nebraska; and Keith Ridler of Boise, Idaho, contributed to this report.

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